Em­brace the car­bon cap, Gov. Ho­gan

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Mark Davis Mark Davis is the founder of WDCSo­lar Inc. in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., one of the na­tion’s first African-Amer­i­can-owned so­lar panel in­stal­la­tion com­pa­nies. He can be reached at gogreen@wdcso­lar.com.

As this tu­mul­tuous elec­tion sea­son comes to a close, politi­cians and me­dia pun­dits have been stuck on the nar­ra­tive of African-Amer­i­cans as pow­er­less vic­tims of vi­o­lence and op­pres­sion. It’s a trope that fully ne­glects to con­sider the groundswell of black lead­ers tak­ing charge of the fu­ture and health of our com­mu­ni­ties. And there is per­haps no bet­ter ex­am­ple of this lead­er­ship than the grow­ing green econ­omy.

The green econ­omy is a ris­ing pri­or­ity for African-Amer­i­cans for two rea­sons: in­jus­tice and op­por­tu­nity. African-Amer­i­cans are dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by pol­lu­tion and more vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change be­cause of where we live and what re­sources we have ac­cess to. At the same time, African-Amer­i­cans have been un­der­served and un­der­rep­re­sented in the grow­ing green econ­omy — an is­sue I’ve worked to com­bat by work­ing with cli­mate jus­tice groups like Green For All and as a small busi­ness owner by cre­at­ing livable-wage, re­new­able-en­ergy jobs in the so­lar sec­tor.

Black lead­ers across the coun­try — led by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama — rec­og­nize the ur­gency of tak­ing ac­tion on this is­sue. It is why we are col­lec­tively ad­vo­cat­ing for stronger pol­lu­tion lim­its and pri­or­i­tized green in­vest­ments.

This month, two crit­i­cal poli­cies that di­rectly im­pact the growth of the green econ­omy and health of our com­mu­ni­ties are up for de­bate: the na­tion’s first manda­tory car­bon pol­lu­tion policy, known as the Re­gional Green­house Gas Ini­tia­tive or RGGI, and the na­tion’s largest car­bon pol­lu­tion policy, known as the Clean Power Plan.

For gen­er­a­tions fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies have been ben­e­fit­ing from cheap en­ergy while pass­ing the cli­mate, health and eco­nomic costs on to af­fected families. They’ve made a re­mark­ably con­sis­tent profit putting smoke­stacks in our back­yards; it’s no co­in­ci­dence that 68 per­cent of African-Amer­i­cans live within 30 miles of a coal plant and black chil­dren are 4.4 times more likely to be hos­pi­tal­ized due to asthma at­tacks than their white peers.

The nine North­east gov­er­nors who are part of RGGI are in the process of de­cid­ing whether to strengthen the car­bon pol­lu­tion cap. Con­cur­rently, the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit is now con­sid­er­ing the le­gal­ity of Pres­i­dent Obama’s Clean Power Plan, af­ter seven hours of oral ar­gu­ments last week. To­boost clean air and well-pay­ing jobs in our com­mu­ni­ties, we need to strengthen RGGI with a 5 per­cent an­nual car­bon pol­lu­tion cap from 2020-2030 and sup­port up­hold­ing the Clean Power Plan in the courts.

RGGI be­gan shift­ing the bur­den of car­bon pol­lu­tion costs from families to pol­luters 10 years ago. By charg­ing power plants for car­bon pol­lu­tion, RGGI states created an in­vest­ment source for green en­trepreneurs like my­self to grow our busi­nesses, cre­ate well-pay­ing jobs and fur­ther re­duce pol­lu­tion. De­spite crit­ics say­ing that it would harm the econ­omy, it has ac­tu­ally served to do just the op­po­site. Since the pro­gram be­gan, RGGI states have low­ered car­bon pol­lu­tion 16 per­cent more than other states, while out­pac­ing eco­nomic growth in those same states by an ad­di­tional 3.6 per­cent.

De­spite Mas­sachusetts Gov. Char­lie Baker lead­ing the charge for a 5 per­cent an­nual car­bon cap, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan, a fel­low Repub­li­can, said Mary­land may leave RGGI if the cap is strength­ened. This would be a mis­take, po­ten­tially slow­ing the state’s job growth and econ­omy. That’s whyI’mcall­ing on Gover­nor Ho­gan to re­verse course and em­brace, along with the other RGGI gov­er­nors, the 5 per­cent an­nual pol­lu­tion cap while cre­at­ing a plan to guar­an­tee net eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits from RGGI for un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties.

Mean­while, the fu­ture of the Clean Power Plan, the first ini­tia­tive of its kind to curb car­bon diox­ide, also hangs in the balance. Pol­luters are at­tempt­ing to block it, even though 83 per­cent of African-Amer­i­cans sup­port the plan, which will pave the way for hun­dreds of thou­sands of cleanen­ergy jobs while low­er­ing house­hold elec­tric­ity bills. Tools like the Clean Power For All Policy In­no­va­tion Cen­ter are al­ready proac­tively iden­ti­fy­ing ways in which states can lever­age an up­held Clean Power Plan to­ward help­ing those most harmed by poverty and pol­lu­tion.

Pres­i­dent Obama has been ahead of the curve on this is­sue, stak­ing his legacy on ad­dress­ing cli­mate change and boost­ing the fu­ture clean en­ergy. Now­is­the time for all of us to back him up. Amer­ica needs to make pol­luters pay for car­bon emis­sions and en­sure families liv­ing at the front lines of poverty and pol­lu­tion stand at the fore­front of the green econ­omy.

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